There is a new sensation sweeping the nation. The unusual combination of screen time and time outdoors seems to boggle some and thrill others. That sensation is Pokémon Go.
The concept of the Pokémon Go game was started in 2014 by Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsuekazu Ishihara of the Pokémon Company. Throughout 2015, development continued. In March of this year, it was announced that a Japan-exclusive beta test would begin later in the month. In May, field tests made their way to the United States with the game being released to the general public just a week ago.
Pokémon are not a new concept. Some may remember the card game obsession that probably emptied many pocketbooks in an effort to “catch ‘em all.” The cards featured various “pocket monsters” with different levels of evolution on them. The concept is based on the executive director, Satoshi Tajiri’s hobby of insect collecting as a child.
Players are designated as trainers and have two general goals. One- complete your ‘Pokedex’ by collecting all of the fictional monsters. And two- train them to be powerful useful fighters that you can use to win battles in the Pokémon League. This concept spread across several different outlets beyond playing cards, including video games, anime, a manga series and now a live action game.
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality mobile game released this month for Apple and Android devices. The game allows players to pursue the previous realities only available in their imagination or on a video game console. Players find themselves wandering throughout their neighborhoods and beyond in search of the coveted creatures. Once they stumble upon one, they can capture, train and battle their virtual monsters. The game makes use of GPS and camera compatible devices such as cellphones and tablets. Players log into the game for the first time and create an avatar to represent themselves. They are able to choose the avatar’s gender, hair, skin and eye color, as well as a selection of outfits to wear. After this is completed, the avatar will appear at the players current location on a map of the players immediate surroundings.
The map will also show PokeStops and Pokémon gyms. Stops provide players with items they need to play such as Poke Balls, which store the captured beasts, as well as potions, and other items that attract the wild Pokémon. Gyms serve as battle locations for all of the trainers’ hard work. The Pokémon will duke it out at these locations that are usually located at places of interest. Different Pokémon species will be found at their respective areas. For example water type Pokémon will be generally found near water. The Augmented reality feature allows players to view the Pokémon in a live rendered background. Using the camera on the device from which it is played the image of the Pokémon will appear as if it were there in real life. This can add an element of delight and excitement for players. Once the wild Pokémon is found, it must be captured. Players will “throw a Poke Ball” at the creature by flicking it from the bottom of the screen up toward the Pokémon. If the Pokémon is successfully caught, it will come under ownership of the player. Success of this action depends on the right force, time and Poke Ball used. As game play proceeds these Pokémon can level up to make them bigger and stronger versions of themselves. The final goal for a player is obtaining the original 151 Pokémon.
The game has been wildly praised for its incentive to adventure out and visit the real world, rather than staying inside and indulging in screen time for hours on end, like the popular counterpart game, Candy Crush.
One individual who plays with her children noted, “I’ve heard that many businesses are seeing improved sales from people coming in to capture Pokémon.”
Throughout the country, this seems to be true. Some businesses are taking advantage of the craze; offering perks to hunters and gym leaders (another level of player in the game) who are already in their store hunting the wild Pokémon. The mobile app Yelp, added a filter which only shows businesses which have a PokeStop nearby
Others however, find the game a wild waste of time. Millennial and mother of two, Stephanie McCumber, feels strongly that playing Pokémon Go leads to unnecessary and downright rude invasions of personal space.
“I think that people that are involved in the game have no respect for the real world,” McCumber said. “Going on people’s property without permission, it’s just something you don’t do.”
McCumber also feels that it is risky for youth to be venturing out in the community unsupervised and not paying attention to their surroundings because they are looking at their device seeking Pokémon.
“I have two daughters, 8 and 11, and I wouldn’t just let them go looking for Pokémon because I would have to follow them and it’s just not an interest I have for our family,” she explained. “People should be spending their time in a more productive manner.”
However, these feelings are countered by many on the social media site Facebook. They point out that those who are quick to judge Pokémon players also find themselves playing other free games on their devices, watching Netflix or participating in other screen time from the comforts of their sofa.
Moira Walker, a local gaming enthusiast, finds Pokémon Go to be a refreshing change from the other games that keep her indoors.
“The game is so cool because it’s a way to encourage kids and adults alike to go outside, and if you’ve ever had a gamer in your life you know that can be a struggle,” Walker explained. “It’s also a fun way for people to meet each other and hang out in popular places.”
A variety of strange news stories have been popping up throughout the country related to the playing of Pokémon Go. People are stumbling upon dead bodies, robberies in progress, and generally being a public nuisance at times. Yet there have been some positive developments, the game has serendipitously enabled players to help catch criminals or report crimes in progress. Park rangers are also noticing higher numbers of people visiting National Parks, and contrary to what some might believe not leaving them in shambles either.
The success and popularity of the game is attributed to ‘Millennial nostalgia,’ drawing young people like Walker into the craze.
“I’ve always loved Pokémon,” Walker noted. “I’m right around the right age to be a wee tyke when Pokémon first took us by storm. I haven’t stopped loving it as I get older either.”
Apparently, many other young people are feeling the same way. It’s whole new virtual reality out there, and it looks like its growing.